Top 10 Workforce Trends to Watch in the New Decade
Welcome to 2020—a new year and a new decade. And if this decade is anything like the one that just ended, we’ll see major changes in the way we work.
Looking forward and envisioning how workplaces are going to evolve is the reason Catalyst held a symposium on Women and the Future of Work hosted by Lockheed Martin in Arlington, Virginia.
With the conversations from that event fresh in my mind, I’d like to share what I see as the most important changes and trends transforming our workplaces with you here.
- Applying a diversity, equity, and inclusion lens to every aspect of work
- Expanding the talent pool
- Supporting a fluid, flexible work culture
- Investing in lifelong learning
- Recognizing people skills—and the women who have them
- Dialing up digital literacy
- Combatting bias with diverse teams and technology
- Honoring employee intersectionality
- Partnering at home and at work
- Including everyone at work
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is no longer just about who is doing the work: it’s also about what we’re working on, when, where, why, and how. No matter what question you’re asking at work, make sure to answer it through the lens of DEI. This is an opportunity for us to set new standards that will develop and include new talent, audiences, and consumers.
Today, we have the tools to allow us to work collaboratively in teams across different locations, time zones, and even languages. Your local workforce is now global—and you’ve got the opportunity to win the war for talent by drawing from a broader and richer talent pool. Set these dispersed teams and employees up for success by cultivating new communication and leadership skills for remote collaboration and thoughtfully designing cultural structures that foster connection, career advancement, accountability, processes, and goals.
If members of your global teams are working in different time zones and locations, why can’t everyone at headquarters? Building flexibility for all staff to work when, where, and how it suits them will help them be most productive in both their work and their personal lives. As we’ve found from our own practice at Catalyst, this changes the equation for women and anyone who has a life outside of work—which is everyone. Bonus: You might save on real estate too.
Companies need to redevelop their workforces, providing them with exciting new skills and responsibilities that will better position them for the future of work. Managers should ensure skill-mapping and training is available for all employees so they can develop and advance their careers in ways we might not even be able to imagine. Reskilling and upskilling keeps your employees fresh and engaged and allows for alternate career pathways that can deepen your talent pool in times of rapid technological change.
Reskilling is about technology, but it’s also about interpersonal skills like inclusive communication, flexibility, collaboration, empathy—and training to do the storytelling and relationship-building that machines can’t do. The good news is that many women already have these skills in their front-line roles in fields traditionally employing higher numbers of women such as the retail, customer experience, and service industries. Don’t undervalue the skills they’ve been practicing for years.
When most people think of jobs for the future, they think of engineers building robots and coding AI. But for most jobs, you won’t necessarily need a STEM degree or background. What everyone will need is digital literacy—an ability to grasp the concepts, if not the details, and understand how technology can enhance and extend your creativity, collaboration, and communication.
As digital tools like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and augmented and virtual reality become more commonplace, we need diverse, equitable, and inclusive teams to make sure we don’t build in bias. Take it one step further by developing AI that can prevent and detect bias. Your products, processes, and workforce will be better off for it.
Too much of the way we work is a legacy of systems built for white men in the United States. But white men are just a small portion of the global population and workforce. We need new structures, processes, norms, and expectations that honor the diversity among all of us—that don’t just put people in a box based on gender, race, nationality, etc., but recognize the fluidity and overlap among our multiple identities and how they affect our daily experiences at work and in society.
More and more companies are listening to what current and potential employees want and implementing gender-neutral parental leave policies. When taking leave becomes the norm for all new parents, couples learn to share family responsibilities equally and women will be less likely to limit their career aspirations. Women, men, children, and companies will all benefit from shifting this paradigm.
When team members cross borders, functions, and backgrounds, they might also cross wires. Open lines of communication are essential, and that can’t happen unless people feel that their voice is valued. Inclusive workplaces—where everyone is able to do their best work no matter where they are actually located—don’t just appear by chance. Leaders and managers need to learn how to ensure team members are treated fairly, empowered, and able to flourish. At the same time, they need to become their best selves by acting courageously, learning, and self-reflection.
If we push the boundaries of work and our vision of what work will look like a decade from now, these trends will become reality. This will require a big cultural shift. But ultimately, we’ll end up with a workplace and society where everyone can reach their full potential.
We’ll leverage technology to our benefit so we can focus on being creative and building cohesive workplaces. We’ll cultivate more diverse, global teams, where everyone feels respected, where differences are strengths, and we aren’t afraid to ask tough questions. We’ll learn new skills to do all this. And we’ll break down the constructs of time, place, and gender, so we’re all able to flourish at work and at home.
I’m ready to make this a reality. Are you?
President & CEO
Catalyst’s vision and mission have been a passion for Lorraine Hariton since college. Lorraine’s career has benefited tremendously from Catalyst’s work, and she is honored to lead the organization at this crucial time, to pay it forward to future generations, and to help write the next chapter in its 58-year…